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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 11:31 GMT
Stardom for Irish Traveller girl
By James Helm
BBC News, Dublin

Rosie and Winnie
Winnie and her mum Rosie would like to move to a house
Huge trucks rumble through an industrial estate in Dublin.

Two dilapidated caravans sit by the roadside. For Winnie Maughan, the young star of an award-winning film, this is home.

She lives in one of the caravans with her mother and some of her nine brothers and sisters. To fetch water for the kettle, or for a wash, they must cross the busy road to a tap on the other side.

The day we visited the caravan it was Winnie's 13th birthday, and she was opening a present from the director of Pavee Lackeen. It means "the Traveller girl" and, in an unromantic way, it tells the story of the daily lives of Winnie and her family. It mixes fact and fiction, but mirrors many of her experiences.

Cut from that run-down, litter-strewn corner of Dublin, to a glitzy awards ceremony a couple of miles away. Big names from TV and film are there - actors, actresses, presenters and directors.

Sinead Cusack, the Irish actress, announces the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Film, and the winner is... Pavee Lackeen. To loud applause, Winnie, in her best frock, goes up on stage with the English director, Perry Ogden.


Perry was introduced to Winnie by her brother, whom he met while carrying out research at the youth courts in Dublin.

Trips to film festivals in Venice and London have followed, but she is taking it all in her stride, describing it with a shrug of her shoulders, as if they were simply trips to the local shops.

She says she "hates" the film because of how she looks in it, and pulls a face at the huge movie posters which feature a big photo of her. Her mother, Rosie, says the film-making process was "mostly fun, and we'd laugh at it. But we didn't realise it would go this far".

Winnie's an incredibly bright and curious girl and she could do many, many things in her life
Perry Ogden

This was Perry Ogden's first film. A former fashion photographer, he produced, directed and shot the movie for a little over 297,640 euros (200,000) - small change in the world of film. He knows the experience may change the lives of Winnie and her family. He hope it helps them.

"There's a potential there for all sorts of things. Winnie's an incredibly bright and curious girl and she could do many, many things in her life," he says.

At Pavee Point in Dublin, members of the Traveller community are keen to see the film. A former church in north Dublin is a meeting point for Travellers, a base where they can gather to discuss issues.

There has been a Traveller community here in Ireland for centuries, and estimates of its current size vary - some put it at around 30,000. Many now live on permanent sites, or in houses. As in the UK, their presence has often produced tensions with what they call the "settled community".

Dream home

According to Winnie Kerrigan, who runs a cultural programme at Pavee Point, it remains a proud and tightly-knit community, retaining its own culture and language, despite profound social changes. Ireland may have seen startling economic success in recent years, but Travellers, she says, still suffer poverty, ill-health and discrimination.

So will this tale of life on the margins of one of the world's wealthiest countries change anything for its central characters? Winnie Maughan and her family hope the film might bring them what they dream of: a house nearby.

They want to move off the roadside, with the trucks going by night and day, and think Pavee Lackeen might put pressure on the city's authorities, who in the past have offered them housing elsewhere in the city.

They preferred to stay in the area they regard as home.

"It's not right," says Winnie. "No way - it's not right Travellers living by the side of the road. Look at how many houses there are in Dublin."

The star of Pavee Lackeen talks about acting in the film

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